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TOP 5 MICRONUTRIENTS TO BALANCE


Fruits and vegetables micronutrients | Kassandra Hobart

Lately, the nutrition industry is dominated by macronutrient tracking, but what about micronutrients? Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals we get from the whole foods we eat. With the nutrition world spending so much time on macronutrients, we’ve lost sight into how beneficial micronutrients are to our health and fitness.


In this article, I want to revisit the value of micronutrients, share their important interactions, and show you how to balance them in your diet for better energy and performance.



WHAT ARE MICRONUTRIENTS?

We can break them down into two parts: micro and nutrients. Nutrients are chemical substances contained in food that are necessary to sustain life. They play major key roles in the body for energy, structure, and function. Micro means crucial in small amounts; micronutrients serve as essential substances for physiological function and structural building blocks. Like macronutrients, they are essential for optimizing your health.


Vitamins list by Kassandra Hobart, FNTP

Micronutrients are classified into two categories: vitamins and minerals. Vitamins are organic substances, made from plants or animals. Minerals are inorganic elements that come from the earth, soil, and water.


Vitamins are important to your health and growth. To optimize their functions, you need the right support of minerals, enzymes, and other vitamins. For example, vitamin A absorption is enhanced by vitamin E, zinc, and iron.


Minerals have many vital roles in the body as well. They include acting as cofactors for enzymatic reactions, maintaining pH balance, regulating tissue growth, and maintaining proper nerve conduction. You cannot make them internally either. You get them from eating plants and animals that have absorbed the minerals through rocks, soil, and water in the ground.



Mineral list by Kassandra Hobart, FNTP

VITAMIN AND MINERALS INTERACT

Vitamins and minerals have a delicate balance in the body. The more we understand how they interact, the better they’ll benefit your bio-individual needs.


Let’s keep this as simple as possible because it’s easy to get lost in the details. Each micronutrient has complementary, or synergistic, nutrients as well as incompatible, or antagonistic, nutrients. Synergistic nutrients enhance and help one another. Antagonistic nutrients diminish or compete with one another.



BALANCING MICRONUTRIENTS

The goal of balancing micronutrients is to create harmony while emphasizing specific nutrients that’ll support your body and goals. Vitamins and minerals interact throughout many processes in the body such as absorption, transportation, and metabolism. You’ll find both synergistic and antagonistic nutrients at almost every step along the way. Let’s use an example of vitamin A to illustrate it’s connection and competition with other nutrients.


Vitamin A’s synergistic nutrients are vitamin E, iodine, iron and zinc. Vitamin E enhances vitamin A’s intestinal absorption. Iodine helps Vitamin A support thyroid function more so than on its own. Iron is required for converting Vitamin A form beta-carotene to retinol. In order for vitamin A to be the best at its jobs, it needs help from these nutrients. Then on the other hand, you have incompatible nutrients. Vitamin A’s antagonist is vitamin K, which can inhibit the absorption and uptake of Vitamin A.


The takeaway is this: now that we know how vitamin E, iodine, and iron support vitamin A, we can include foods rich in these particular micronutrients to support vitamin A levels. We also know to be aware of how much vitamin K we take in because it’ll diminish vitamin A. This works well when vitamin A is your focus point. Now let’s turn to other micronutrients and their relationships.



TOP 5 MICRONUTRIENTS TO BALANCE

Each micronutrient has its own set of complementary and incompatible vitamins and minerals. Here are the 5 we need supplementation for most often along with their synergistic supporters and antagonistic competitors. Support the micronutrient metabolism by implementing synergistic sources in your meals. Though they don’t cancel out one for one, be careful how many antagonistic sources you eat at the same time.


Note: this does not mean to avoid antagonistic sources all together! You may just want to avoid them in the same meal as your focused nutrient or around the time you supplement with it.



1) VITAMIN B12


SYNERGISTIC NUTRIENTS


Calcium helps the absorption of B12 along with thyroid hormone.

Sources: broccoli, cauliflower, peas, pinto beans, almonds brazil nuts



ANTAGONISTIC NUTRIENTS


Vitamin C degrades B12 especially with B1 and copper present.

Sources: oranges, lemons, limes, cherries, papayas, strawberries


Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid) increases the need for B12 and vice versa.

Sources: spinach, kale, beet greens, chard, asparagus



2) VITAMIN D


SYNERGISTIC NUTRIENTS


Calcium absorption increases with the presence of vitamin D.

Sources: broccoli, cauliflower, peas, pinto beans, almonds brazil nuts


Magnesium is a cofactor for transport and activation of vitamin D.

Sources: dark leafy greens, pecans, cashews, brazil nuts, apricot, mushrooms



ANTAGONISTIC NUTRIENTS


Vitamin A decreases vitamin D uptake.

Sources: fish oil, egg yolks, grass fed butter, pumpkin, spinach, carrots


Vitamin E reduces uptake of vitamin D.

Sources: liver, butter, egg yolks, nut butters



3) MAGNESIUM


SYNERGISTIC NUTRIENTS


Vitamin B6 enhances magnesium uptake and vice versa.

Sources: organ meat, egg yolks, peanuts, walnuts, bananas


Potassium is a cofactor for magnesium uptake in cells.

Sources: parsley, broccoli, peas, lima beans, avocados, raisins



ANTAGONISTIC NUTRIENTS


Calcium decreases tissue levels and exacerbates magnesium deficiency.

Sources: broccoli, cauliflower, peas, pinto beans, almonds brazil nuts


Phosphorus can reduce the absorption of magnesium in the small intestine.

Sources: turkey, fish, eggs, chicken, walnut, sunflower seeds



4) IRON


SYNERGISTIC NUTRIENTS


Vitamin A increases non-heme iron and together helps reverse iron deficiency anemia.

Sources: fish oil, egg yolks, grass fed butter, pumpkin, spinach, carrots


Vitamin C increases absorption and metabolism of iron, even in the presence of inhibitory nutrients.

Sources: oranges, lemons, limes, cherries, papayas, strawberries



ANTAGONISTIC NUTRIENTS


Calcium decreases absorption in the short term but long-term impact may not be as severe.

Sources: broccoli, cauliflower, peas, pinto beans, almonds brazil nuts


Copper competes for absorption with iron. High levels may lead to deficiency in the other.

Sources: Oysters, walnuts, hazelnuts, brazil nuts, pecans, organ meats



5) ZINC


SYNERGISTIC NUTRIENTS


Vitamin A transport needs zinc.

Sources: fish oil, egg yolks, grass fed butter, pumpkin, spinach, carrots


Vitamin B3 may provide an improvement in zinc levels, depending on dose level.

Sources: organ meats, chicken, peanuts, tuna salmon, halibut



ANTAGONISTIC NUTRIENTS


Vitamin B9 supplementation reduces adsorption of zinc.

Sources: spinach, kale, beet greens, chard, asparagus


Copper inhibits zinc absorption.

Sources: Oysters, walnuts, hazelnuts, brazil nuts, pecans, organ meats



HOW TO APPLY IN YOUR DIET

Creating micronutrient balance in your diet is built around diversity in your foods. When you are focused on healing a root cause or a particular symptom, it’s important to understand the relationship between synergistic and antagonist nutrients, like we discussed above. But if your goal is general balancing, you don’t need to know every single synergistic or antagonistic nutrient. Instead, you need to diversify your foods in each meal and focus on eliminating inflammation that slows down absorption.


Here are simple tips to balance micronutrients in your diet:


  1. Eat a rainbow of color vegetables and fruits each day

  2. Avoid cutting out any one food category, like protein or fat.

  3. Pay attention to your gut health. Taking a probiotic and prebiotic may be necessary.

  4. Get blood work yearly to evaluate your nutrient levels.

  5. Avoid supplementing for more than 6 months unless recommended by your doctor

  6. Pay attention to inactive ingredients and other nutrients on a supplement label.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

When you focus on nutrition, the first thing you'll see is an increase in energy and cognitive sharpness, leading to a more productive day.

KASSANDRA-HOBART-NTP

KASSANDRA HOBART

FUNCTIONAL NUTRITION THERAPY PRACTITIONER

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